Wollongong MP accuses minister of playing favourites

Wollongong MP Noreen Hay has accused NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian of ‘‘pork barrelling’’ when it comes to installing lifts at train stations.

Monday’s Illawarra Mercury featured a story on the minister’s refusal to confirm or deny reports that Artarmon station – on the border of her electorate of Willoughby – had ‘‘jumped the queue’’ to get easy access lifts installed.

The reports have angered residents of Unanderra who are still waiting for lifts at their station.

Ms Hay  claimed that Mrs Berejiklian was playing favourites when it came to improving station access.

‘‘I would say there’s a lot of pork barrelling and I would waste no time in accusing this government of pork barrelling up to the hilt,’’ she said.

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‘‘Easy access lifts have been put into a  number of electorates under this Liberal government, which coincidentally are held by either Liberals or Nationals.’’

Ms Hay said in the last election campaign, Mrs Berejiklian promised to build lifts at Unanderra  but later reneged.

In response, Mrs Berejiklian pointed to the ALP’s own record.

‘‘Labor has no credibility on this,’’ Mrs Berejiklian said.

‘‘Noreen Hay said in 2009 an upgrade at Unanderra would be finished in 18 months and when Labor left office it hadn’t been done.’’

Opposition transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe said Mrs Berejiklian needed to explain why Artarmon had been chosen.

‘‘There has to be absolute transparency in the way that upgrades are prioritised on the rail network,’’ Ms Sharpe said.

‘‘The minister must demonstrate that she is not playing favourites when it comes to which stations are upgraded and in what order.’’

Mrs Berejiklian said there was already a range of criteria used to assess potential projects.

‘‘Station upgrades, as part of the NSW government’s Transport Access Program, are selected based on a range of evidence-based criteria including current and future patronage, the needs and demographics of customers who use the location, whether important services such as hospitals or educational facilities are nearby, and the accessibility of other nearby transport interchanges and facilities,’’ she said.

Executive director of The Disability Trust Matthew Martin said access to Unanderra station was an issue for everyone, not just those people in wheelchairs.

However, he also praised the efforts of the government.

‘‘All disability organisations would thank the government for making some giant inroads in relation to access issues,’’ he said.

‘‘The number of lifts at train stations has vastly improved. I guess we’d just like to see Unanderra get to the top of the list soon.’’

Richard Kramer at Unanderra station which has no lift access for disabled people. GREG TOTMAN

Richard Kramer at Unanderra station which has no lift access for disabled people. GREG TOTMAN


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